The Fourth of July on the Esplanade began in 1929 by Arthur Fiedler, who believed that great symphonic music should be accessible to the masses and though his vision this event has become one of the United States most beloved celebrations.
We asked a few locals about the logistics of going to such a grand event and most said that they had been in the past but after the Boston marathon bomber, they didn’t bother anymore. They weren’t interested in having to barrack for a position on the green so early in the morning and felt the increased security and hassle with crowds was too much, so we looked for resources and suggestions on-line. We found some good suggestions at wikihow and made a few notes.
With great anticipation, we packed our blanket, picnic basket, books and rain gear (just in case) and left the house at about 9am. We drove our van to the Brookline Hill subway station, parked for free and bought a $2.50 one way ticket to the Park Street Station near the Esplanade. We walk about a half of a mile to the grounds, passed through security (who were actually in pretty good spirits) and made our way towards the band shell. We staked claim to a spot about half way back on the Esplanade lawn and set up our little area. We watched as the grass quickly disappeared beneath blankets, chairs, picnic baskets, and outstretched bodies and our excitement grew. The Charles River Basin was crammed with all manner of boats and floats and the atmosphere was one of communal good cheer. Folks seemed genuinely happy to be there, together.
To pass the time, we enjoyed our meal, read books, took turns walking around, talked to folks, and took a few cat naps. It rained for about an hour but we were prepared and stuffed everything in a plastic bag and put on our rain coats to wait it out. Once the rain dissipated and the sun came out we found that the ground dried up quickly and were able to settle back in for the evening.
As the sun set, the anticipation rose and in one magical moment the conductor, Keith Lockhart, who was celebrating his 20th anniversary as conductor, mounted the podium and the music began. We enjoyed a fun-filled program with a varied line-up of performers, including Broadway performer Michael Cavanaugh who did a hardy rendition of Billy Joel’s Piano Man, American Idol finalist Melinda Doolittle; Boston-based quartet, the Sons of Serendip; the Boston Crusaders drum and bugle corps; gospel singer and The Voice contestant Michelle Brooks-Thompson, and the USO Show Troupe. The finale included Tchaikovsky’s monumental 1812 Overture (complete with cannons and church bells) and the enduring Stars and Stripes Forever as the encore which included the ceremonial American flag drop and confetti shot.
After the concert, we packed up our blanket and picnic stuff and made our way to the Charles River Basin to enjoy the fireworks orchestrated by the Grucci’s, family owned and operated since 1850. The crowd was dense and the sky was cloudy making for a loud smokey experience. So, after a few pops and bangs we decided to beat the crowds and make our way back to the Park Street Station. The fare back to the Brookline Hill station was free and the trains were just starting to pack ’em in. We all managed to squeeze on and made our way home safe and sound.
If we had to do it again, we would! It was a pretty amazing thing to be there, enjoying the moment and spending the day as a family.